Brace and Bit

My grandfather’s brace and bit
wasn’t very useful. Leftover

from the days of sail, it was
a country carpenter’s tool.

To countersink a screw
or drill a pilot hole

you had to put your shoulder into it
and often clear the ratchet and the pawl.

But the bits! The bits had heft and soul.
He had a rack of them like rebel soldiers

just back from building pinewood boats
to carry Jackson’s army across the flood.

Long shank and tapered tang
and a ribboned twist for cutting,

they were like the devil’s hoof to sharpen–
and could open a finger lengthwise too.

For DK, Who Doesn’t Think She is a Poet

Some of your work
gives me the poetry shivers.
Where can a mother and God go
to drink coffee among rockweed and plover?

I am fascinated to know earth
gets distracted by its own ruts.
And once, light was powdered and fell
in patterns birds later copied.

And a child’s ear is a riverbed
above the eave of her cheekbone.
And one can breathe in minnows!
I didn’t know, I didn’t know.

Eye Motes #2

After fifty feet, you are down to the smaller bones.

Rosemary and fir needles in an old clay pot on the deck.

Lotsa luck giving things away. Metallic tasting wounds.

Fluted window glass. Car tail lights going back and forth.

Dinner on the outer wall—someone’s tunic is on fire.

At the national art museum. Everything isn’t in there.

Thin people walking into you. Give them your hat.

The cracked glaze on a thousand year old bowl.

A Mardi Gras mask. Thumbs in a cast.

Cotton bolls on stalks in a brown vase.

Every time the wrong thing happens well.

They probably saw something and didn’t say anything.

The way you walk when go means now.

Short straw wins. Short straw doesn’t lose.

This madness is like fleas.

A donkey slide. Know your betters.

An Artist

I cannot smear the rock—
jaundiced as I am with
curious beliefs.

My impudence
keeps water in high places.

Marry the intransigence!
Make it peek around the stacked cans
like a hungry dog.

What the Forest Knows

from squirrel carcass
to goshawk turd and back
is like a priest shivering in an empty room

the forest knows more than I ever shall
but it is better to go to town
as a tender ball of bones
than to go alone

Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was prepared to hate it / well, hate is a strong word /
let’s just say give it wings and let it sail past the bridge
/ but it doesn’t suck / it doesn’t pretend to get on its knees
and make the rafters sing / it is a red owl on a bicycle with hungry eyes /

   “Who isn’t bruised around the edges, peaches poured
   into the truck bed, receipts faded to white?”

it sends out science mannikins to shout about being nervous in secret /
it collaborates with machines to make rain squalls / it argues for
a better kind of blindness / it warns others about dreaming in stairwells
and at crime scenes / it is a crime scene painted in butterscotch broth /

   “The cop speaks and I call a plum into is his mouth
   and it doesn’t shut him up.

   The cop kneels in the grass below my friends, my friends
   crowned with August and Salt. My marigold my wave.”

tendrils and tips and sprockets combine to give it firm plant awareness /
“cyborg means man made” I didn’t know / it is like new sounds added
to frost in the stubble by the road / in a Wyoming winter snow drifts
come and go like grainy herds of buffalo / this book is like those herds
mated with seigniorage — the profit made from the minting of coins /
ducats in the pillow / francs thrown into the Seine / everything costs
what you are willing to throw away / this book is completely free
in that sense / it is madly lyrical  / and it doesn’t suck

Note: this review is for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Soft Science
is forthcoming from Alice James books.


“the main shutoff is where now?”

Frrrghrrrgh…GRRGHGH grrzzzZZGggg …frrgggGG….
upstairs SAWING ON PIPES he is

…..whanging on them to make them fit and decent
to hold shit…


uh…this how you want it?”